Monday, November 14, 2011

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 205: Chupacabra

Warning:  Spoilers Below!

Hershel (to Rick, on behalf of preppers everywhere):  It's a wonder you people have survived this long.

Synopsis: Daryl overcomes the demons of this past;   tension between Rick and Shane build; Andrea shoots Daryl by mistake; and the secret of the barn is revealed.
Chupacabra is a Daryl-centric episode that nevertheless manages to build the tension between the two groups of survivors and shows the widening gap between Shane’s pragmatic survival mentality and Rick’s noble, if sometimes risky, belief that he has to save everyone. 

The opening teaser, which depicts Shane, Lori, and Carl stuck in a traffic jam outside Atlanta with Ed, Carol, and Sophia Peletier and witnessing Army helicopters unleash ordnance on the streets of the city was an interesting choice that shows why Shane thinks the way he does.   Another interesting point was Ed’s insistence that Carol keep quiet about their supplies, even using the term “operational security.”

While Ed was his usual abusive jerk self during this scene, he did have a point.   They were surrounded b dozens, possibly hundreds of people who had no way off the road, were running short of supplies, and were already on edge (witness the fight behind Lori and Shane as they walked forward to see what was happening in the city).   As I pointed out in my review of Episode 204, though, a little charity goes a long way.   He could have quietly passed a couple of MREs to the obviously armed and useful deputy and started building an alliance.  As a prepper, you need to know that the people you build a network with are going to have your back.   I get the strong impression Ed would have thrown his daughter in front of a Walker if it came down to him or her.

Daryl manages to skewer himself with his own arrow.
Which leads us to Daryl.  Daryl becomes injured when his horse throws him, he slides down an embankment, and one of his own arrows pierces his side.  He is forced to bind his wound and try to climb out of the gully on his own, and while drifting in and out of consciousness because of a blow on his head sees visions of his long-missing brother (for those who thought Merle had been holding Sophia hostage, sorry to disappoint you.  Merle's appearance was a hallucination).   We get a glimpse of how Merle pushed and bullied Daryl all his life;  it's obvious that Daryl has spent years trying to earn Merle's approval, but through his interaction with the vision-Merle (and I really hope this doesn't become a regular thing) we see Daryl has realized just how full of it his brother was and how his allegiance now lies with the group.   I still say Daryl is going to be forced to make a choice between family and the group at some point.  Norman Reedus has to carry this part of the episode and does his usual fantastic job.

Thankfully the show toned down the melodrama this week with less Lori and Shane and more dramatic tension developing between Rick and Shane.   Shane wants to cut their losses and abandon the search for Sophia; Rick simply cannot abandon the girl to her fate and takes heart in the fact that Daryl brings back Sophia's doll.  I can see Shane's point; except for the supplies scavenged on the interstate they don't have a lot to move out with if they are forced onto the road again, and every available person is searching for Sophia, not engaging in group survival activities.  They need ammo, more antibiotics, food, water in portable containers, etc.   Rick has to at some point realize that and start curtailing the search to get more supplies for the group.  While everyone feels for Carol and wants to find Sophia, they simply do not have the manpower to continue the search indefinitely.

Here is a training note:   Every person in the group needs to be taught how to be found  if they get separated.  Sophia cannot be expected to stay in one place with walkers roaming through the woods, but how much easier would the search be if she had been taught to create some sort of marker that showed where the was headed?   It could have been as simple as  a group of rocks shaped into an arrow pointing out her direction of travel. 

They are running out of time.  Hershel is increasingly uncomfortable with the strangers' presence.  Daryl has taken a horse without permission and lost it, the survivors' attempts to say thank you by fixing dinner is seen as an encroachment on his home, and Rick allows Jimmy (the previously unnamed teen last seen at Otis's memorial service) to take part in the search without checking with Hershel first.  Complicating matters is the obvious friction between Hershel and his family;  Hershel plays it safe and is convinced his way is the best way;  at the very least Maggie and Jimmy are using the strangers' presence to circumvent his restrictions.  The two groups are not gelling, and the dinner, meant to bring them together, instead serves to showcase the tension that is building under the surface. 

Speaking of training, Andrea's nearly killing Daryl with the rifle is proof to me why she doesn't didn't need a gun.   These people need to be trained in firearms safety, and fast.  

Jeff DeMunn turns in a standout performance.
While this is primarily a preparedness review, I have to stop to admire the utter unadulterated brilliance of Jeff DeMunn's performance this week.   The scene between Dale and Andrea is one of the best of the series and shows what happens when the writers realize the full potential of the characters instead of relying on the melodrama of last week.  If he isn't nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy there is no justice in this world.
Andrea:  How's he doing?
Dale:  Fine. What about you?
Andrea:  I shot Daryl!
Dale: Don't be too hard on yourself.  We've all wanted to shoot Daryl.
His look at Glenn and Maggie at the tense dinner speaks volumes, and betrays what is going on to Hershel as well. 

Walkers now inhabit the barn.
Finally, we have the scene that changes everything:  Glen enters the barn (those who have read the graphic novel knew this was coming) and discovers Hershel has at least a dozen walkers locked up in there.   From what he said about waiting on a cure in previous episodes and his insistence of having his people handle any walkers on the property, we can surmise that these are relatives and neighbors he has isolated until they can find some way to reverse the process.  Of course we know how foolhardy this is -- these are walkers,  for goodness' sake -- but Hershel seems determined to keep them around.

Preparedness lessons for Episode 205:
  • Try to have some extra food set aside to help people who may not have the resources they need stockpiled.  A little charity goes a long way.
  • We cannot survive a long-term mass disaster on our own.  Be careful with whom you form survival relationships, because there are people who will throw you under the bus (or in front of a walker) to ensure their own survival.
  • Search in groups, to make sure a rescuer doesn't become the one needing rescue.
  • Understand your motivations, because at some point you may have to make a hard decision as to where your loyalty lies.  
  • Teach people simple skills that will help them survive being separated from the main group, including how to be found.
  • Typically, you will underestimate how things like medical supplies you need in an emergency, at at least 20 percent more than the number of an item you think you will need.
  • Firearms training is for everyone.  
  • Don't underestimate the dangers that surround you.  Assume the worst case scenario.
Next week:  Dale confronts Shane about his actions, and Glen and Maggie discuss why the barn is full of zombies.   Oh, and the worst case scenario appears to happen. Shocking.  Makes you wonder how Hershel came off all high and mighty, doesn't it?

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